Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Proof Of Life--Can DHS survive a Republican Congress?

It should be noted that somewhere between 88 and 110 Congressional Committees have some piece of oversight over DHS and its programs, functions, and activities. Oddly, since the end of the first George W. Bush Administration the Republican testiness demonstrated almost continuously with DHS has grown. Probably because there is a miniscule but brilliant Libertarian core in the Republican Party that really does think that Big Government and its intrusiveness is a problem of deep concern, as opposed to the TEA PARTY which is led largely by people who do not read or write and therefore don't think very clearly that also oppose big government.

Well DHS is really not such a big government big problem. What has happened is that most of the really critical programs, functions, and activities of DHS are understaffed while those that were part of the DOD culture in the past, and are now, who are housed in DHS continue to act as though DHS is a mini-DOD and does not have to rely on brains but can rely on contractors and brawn. Most of the large contracts of DHS have resulted in failed deliverables for one reason or another including primarily SIBNET, electronic border fences, IT etc. Some out of sight that failed that were large as far as the programs concerned was the MICHAEL BAKER/IBM effort at remapping the country's flood plains.

Well all of this makes for great sharpshooting or perhaps turkey shooting for a Republican Congress. They will really be having fun and some of it will be driven by very serious people that happen to align with the need for effective oversight of DHS.

And let's summarize. DHS for example failed to produce many many Congressionaly mandated reports, or if it did produce them even the slightest review of their formulation (usually by Contractor staff), specifics, and recommendations could drive DHS crazy with oversight. My guess is DHS will beef up its staff with fleeing Democratic staffers from a defeated DEM majority in the new Congress--the 112th.

The fact that much of DHS failed efforts track back to the George W. Bush Administration means that some work on oversight will have to be done to distinguish recent DHS failures from the long-term ones. This should not be too difficult.

If I was conducting the oversight I would just ask the Secretary DHS and her staff to explain exactly what was the role of DHS in various events, like the Times-Square Bomber, H1N1 Pandemic, BP catastrophe, etc. etc. And of course my critical threesome are WMD policy and implementation, Cyber Security [also computer security], and Domestic INTEL collection, analysis, and dessemination. There is no way that DHS can explain some of its efforts in these "discipines" without supplying rope to hang themselves. This is of course precisely why I expect massive cuts in DHS budgets and massive attempts to maintain the huge and unwieldy management oversight system of DHS which continues to draw funding and staff from critical ops. This is not a flat organization and in fact some units still have no real mission assignment grounded in statutory or Executive Order language or HSPD mandates. By the way the later two sources of authority, to the extent they are legal authority, look like revisions in the next year will wipe out most of the references to DHS, and only if they are put on an all-hazard basis will DHS retain any glimmers of authroity from those documents. And of course any resort to all-hazards authority strengthens FEMA not DHS which as all know is not really an all-hazard agency. And DHS is still reluctant to label its criminal law enforcement staff, the badge carrying, gun-toting staff, as federal law enforcement in any prominent way.

And of course the Republican's could reorganize the House Committee structure just to spit in the face of a poorly organized DEM Senate Majority.

Time will tell of course.